Monday, March 23, 2009

Pity the Charter Schools

Pity the charter schools. Evidence that the schools are more effective is so often undermined by data showing that they are less racially diverse, take fewer special education students, or are taking/retaining only the best kids from neighboring schools. So imagine how happy charter school supporters must have been when they read the news that a RAND Corp. report found that charters are not more racially segregated than the surrounding schools and don't seem to be skimming the top students. The only catch? The report doesn't find any evidence that the charter schools perform any better than their traditional school counterparts.

Talk about building you up just to let you down. The same report that exonerates the schools from their most persistent criticisms also undercuts their biggest area of strength. It hardly seems fair.

Maybe now we can start looking at a more realistic assessment of the possibilities that charter schools offer. While there are some examples of wildly successful charter schools (maybe you've heard some of those stories), we have to stop assuming that these wild successes are the rule instead of the exception. Just as there are more and less successful traditional schools, there are more and less successful charter schools. We need to get past looking at things like governance structures and focus on what's actually happening in the classrooms. We need to get past the grown-up politics and focus on what works for kids.

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